Plant-pollinator coextinctions and the loss of plant functional and phylogenetic diversity.


Plant-pollinator coextinctions are likely to become more frequent as habitat alteration and climate change continue to threaten pollinators. The consequences of the resulting collapse of plant communities will depend partly on how quickly plant functional and phylogenetic diversity decline following pollinator extinctions. We investigated the functional and phylogenetic consequences of pollinator extinctions by simulating coextinctions in seven plant-pollinator networks coupled with independent data on plant phylogeny and functional traits. Declines in plant functional diversity were slower than expected under a scenario of random extinctions, while phylogenetic diversity often decreased faster than expected by chance. Our results show that plant functional diversity was relatively robust to plant-pollinator coextinctions, despite the underlying rapid loss of evolutionary history. Thus, our study suggests the possibility of uncoupled responses of functional and phylogenetic diversity to species coextinctions, highlighting the importance of considering both dimensions of biodiversity explicitly in ecological studies and when planning for the conservation of species and interactions.

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